Road Trip Bucket List # 3

U.S. 50 - Coming in at number 3 on my Road Trip Bucket List, at just over 3,000 miles in length, this major east-west coast-to-coast route starts in Ocean City, Maryland and ends in Sacramento, California. For the vast majority of it's length, it is truly a blue highway. Running through remote prairie settlements, rolling farmland, dying mining towns, deserts and mountains in the west, the section through Nevada is known as the loneliest road in America. It is the central most of the cross-country routes,  and probably the least known. In total, it passes through 12 states across the heartland of America.

From it's beginning in Ocean City, Maryland, U.S. 50 is the major route to Washington D.C. and varies from 2 lanes to 10 lanes wide as it gets there. It goes through Cambridge, crosses Chesapeake Bay, through Annapolis and into downtown D.C., turning into Constitution Ave. along the north side of the National Mall. As much as I know I'll look forward to seeing the east in my rear view mirror, I'll most probably stay here for a day or two to take in a couple of museums.

Heading into Virginia, I'll take a side trip to see the Manassas National Battlefield Park where on July 16, 1861, the first major land battle of the Civil War took place. From there I'll continue west into and through West Virginia before entering Ohio just past Parkersburg. Once in Ohio, this should be a rather pretty trip across the southern part of the state as it passes through and by numerous state parks and smaller towns until becoming Interstate 71 entering downtown Cincinnati and exiting the state by the Perfect North Slopes ski area.

I've never been to Indiana so I'm not sure what to expect. One little town I plan to stop in and at least take a picture of the town limit sign is Loogootee. Just can't pass up a town with a name like that. About 35 miles west of Loogootee (its fun to say, huh?), U.S. 50 enters Illinois just past Vincennes. Fortunately, the route doesn't get into any of the big cities until it becomes Interstate-435 and passes around the southern perimeter of St. Louis, Missouri. In Missouri, the route takes a gradual west-northwest angle up to Kansas City. Missouri will be the second new state I'll get to cross off my "States I've Never Been In" list. There's only 14 on the list now so it will be down to a dirty dozen after this.

Kansas is where I'm not sure whether to look forward to or not. I've been through Kansas coming up from the south via I-35 to I-135 and then I-70 over to Colorado. This route has the honor of being the most boring, God-awful drive I've ever had the misfortune to take. To make matters worse, I've actually driven it twice, coming back the opposite way from a different trip - like it was going to be more interesting coming the other way. It wasn't. But U.S. 50, after a few miles of being I-35 coming out of Kansas City, turns into a 4-lane and then 2-lane road after it splits from the interstate in Emporia and takes a gradual south-western route through Ft. Larned National Historical Site (supposedly the best preserved and best restored frontier fort in America,) Dodge City, Finney Wildlife Area & Bison Refuge and then enters Colorado 16 miles west of Syracuse.

Eastern Colorado won't be exactly a real exciting drive; it's just an extension of Kansas until you get to Pueblo, but that's where this route gets really interesting. If you've ever been to Colorado, you know how beautiful it is and Route 50 cuts right through the middle of it - Royal Gorge Bridge (1,053' above the river), Texas Creek, Salida (where I was once caught in a snow storm and had a snowball fight - on the 4th of July!), Poncha Springs, Monarch Pass (11,312' elevation), along the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, Montrose, and northwest through Grand Junction. There will be a whole lotta picture taking through here and it will probably take a while to get through the state due to all the stopping and giving thanks for the beauty of the landscape.

Coming into Utah, one of my favorite states for vacationing, U.S. 50 merges and becomes I-70 and remains an interstate until over half-way through until arriving in Salina. I'm not feeling much enthusiasm for this stretch, but I have an open mind.

Just a couple of miles after entering Nevada, the route goes by the Great Basin National Park, where I'll be sure to visit and get a stamp in my National Park Book. Just a few miles later comes Wheeler Peak at 13,063', and then the Ruth Copper Pit, one of the world's largest mining pits. Probably not pretty, but worth a looksee. Then, as it crosses the middle of the state, comes miles after miles of what Life magazine in July, 1986, named "The Loneliest Road in America." Crossing large, desolate areas with almost no sign of civilization and few other travelers, it still manages to encounter petroglyphs, ghost towns, alpine forests, desert valleys and goes through the state capital in Carson City and the resort town of Lake Tahoe before entering California from South Lake Tahoe.

In California, traveling west until arriving in Placerville, U.S. 50 is designated a State Scenic Highway. From Placerville, it's not that long of a drive to the end of the route in West Sacramento.

It will be a very interesting, but long trip and I'm sure I'll be ready to get back home and sleep in my own bed again. Time to put the white-line fever back in the box - at least for a while.